Thursday – Holy Week 2013


The Church of the Agony is built in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Matthew’s account of the events of the last Thursday of Jesus’ life flows very quickely, beginning in Matthew 26:17, and before the end of the chapter we have crossed over from Thursday into the events of Friday, and again, no clear dividing line.We are told it is the First Day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, referred to often as the Day of Preparation. For Passover begins the next day at sundown. There is a lot we could say about that, the Passover meal that Jesus shares with the disciples, and it’s significance.Jesus-in-GethsemaneBut I am drawn to the scene in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-46. Matthew doesn’t tell us us it is a garden. It isn’t really. It was, and is, an olive grove. The courtyard of the Church of the Agony built on the site has several trees, at least one of which is about 2,000 years old. The name Gethsemane means, “olive press.” It was here that the harvested olives would be brought to be pressed, crushed into oil. And here, Jesus, comes, pressed, crushed beneath the weight of the world. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (verse 38)”Stay here and keep watch with me.” Pitiful words. Maybe you have heard them from the lips of someone who needed your presence in a moment of need. The disciples begin deserting Jesus here, even though in verse 35 they were willing to die with him. But now, they can’t even stay awake with him. And Jesus begins to feel the weight of the whole world with no one to share it with.

The world is heavy. We have come so far from where God intended us to be. We press our rights to the point of destroying our community. We demand our own way calling it justice. We backbite and devour each other in our quest to advance, progress. We complain about what we don’t have when most of the world would be content with just a portion. We enslave ourselves to creditors so we can get what we want now. Our cruelty can be disguised by such righteous sounding jargon. The world is heavy. And so othen the weight of my world pressing on me makes me deaf to your cries from the weight of your world on you. We live is such lonely isolation from each other.

“My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” The weight of the world is heavy, but because Jesus was willing to drink this cup, the weight of our world just got lighter.

He was despised and rejected—
      a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
      it was our sorrows, it was our diseases.
that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
      a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
      crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.       Isaiah 53:3-5
Your load need only be as heavy as what you refuse to let him carry.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30


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